Federal drug enforcement agents showed up unannounced Sunday to check at least three visiting NFL teams medical staffs as part of an investigation into former players claims that teams mishandled prescription drugs.There were no arrests, Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne said Sunday. The San Francisco 49ers staff was checked at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, after they played the New York Giants. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff was checked at Baltimore-Washington International airport after playing the Redskins. The Seattle Seahawks, who played at Kansas City, confirmed via the teams Twitter account that they were spot-checked as well.The operation was still ongoing, and other teams may be checked later Sunday, Payne said.DEA agents are currently interviewing NFL team doctors in several locations as part of an ongoing investigation into potential violations of the (Controlled Substances Act), Payne said.The spot checks were done by investigators from the federal DEA. They did not target specific teams, but were done to measure whether visiting NFL clubs were generally in compliance with federal law. Agents requested documentation from visiting teams medical staffs for any controlled substances in their possession, and for proof that doctors could practice medicine in the home teams state.Our teams co-operated with the DEA today and we have no information to indicate that irregularities were found, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email.The nationwide probe is being directed by the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Southern District of New York — where the NFL is headquartered — but involves several U.S. attorneys offices.The investigation was sparked by a lawsuit filed in May on behalf of former NFL players going back to 1968. The number of plaintiffs has grown to more than 1,200, including dozens who played as recently as 2012. Any violations of federal drug laws from 2009 forward could also become the subject of a criminal investigation because they would not be subject to the five-year statute of limitations.This is an unprecedented raid on a professional sports league, said Steve Silverman, one of the attorneys for the former players. I trust the evidence reviewed and validated leading up to this action was substantial and compelling.Federal prosecutors have conducted interviews in at least three cities over the past three weeks, spending two days in Los Angeles in late October meeting with a half-dozen former players — including at least two who were named plaintiffs in the painkillers lawsuit, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the meetings who spoke on the condition of anonymity because prosecutors told them not to comment on the meetings.The lawsuit alleges the NFL and its teams, physicians and trainers acted without regard for players health, withholding information about injuries while at the same time handing out prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet, and anti-inflammatories such as Toradol, to mask pain and minimize lost playing time. The players contend some teams filled out prescriptions in players names without their knowledge or consent, then dispensed those drugs — according to one plaintiffs lawyer — like candy at Halloween, along with combining them in cocktails.Several former players interviewed by The Associated Press described the line of teammates waiting to get injections on game day often spilling out from the training room. Others recounted flights home from games where trainers walked down the aisle and players held up a number of fingers to indicate how many pills they wanted.The controlled substance act says only doctors and nurse practitioners can dispense prescription drugs, and only in states where they are licensed. The act also lays out stringent requirements for acquiring, labeling, storing and transporting drugs. Trainers who are not licensed would be in violation of the law simply by carrying a controlled substance.The former players have reported a range of debilitating effects, from chronic muscle and bone ailments to permanent nerve and organ damage to addiction. They contend those health problems came from drug use, but many of the conditions havent been definitively linked to painkillers.The lawsuit is currently being heard in the northern district of California, where presiding judge William Alsup said he wants to hear the NFL Players Associations position on the case before deciding on the leagues motion to dismiss. The NFL maintained that its not responsible for the medical decisions of its 32 teams. League attorneys also argued the issue should be addressed by the union, which negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that covers player health.The DEA investigation comes during a turbulent time for the NFL.The league is still weathering criticism over its treatment of several players accused of domestic violence and just wrapped up an arbitration hearing involving Ravens running back Ray Rice, who is contesting the length of his suspension. The league has hired former FBI director Robert Mueller III to investigate its handling of the Rice case.The NFL is also trying to finalize a $765 million class-action settlement reached in August 2013 over complaints by thousands of former players that the NFL concealed the risk of concussions. James Young Jersey
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. The Grizzlies erased most of a 25-point deficit before Durant, the leagues scoring champion, got hot.PHOENIX - An historic Super Bowl is before us.Next Sunday, Seattle goes for a second straight title, seeking to be the first team to repeat since the Patriots a decade ago. A victory, particularly a convincing one, would stamp the Seahawks as one of the great teams of the Super Bowl era.Meanwhile, New Englands coach and quarterback chase a record-tying fourth Super Bowl ring.Yet, as has been the custom this season, major distractions have taken focus away from the field.As much as Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll and Richard Sherman might want the spotlight to shine only on the game itself — and the potential achievements at hand — much of the buildup to the kickoff will be about anything but.From the New England under-inflated balls saga to injuries for All-Pro defensive backs Sherman and Earl Thomas to Marshawn Lynch being fined yet again for his code of silence with the media, the 49th Super Bowl has taken on a circus atmosphere.Which seems fitting given all that has gone wrong for the NFL off the field — even as pro football remains as popular as ever.Just finding any comments about the matchup of the dynamic defence from Seattle and the potent offence from New England has been a chore. Everything else, it seems, has been in play.Indeed, heres how Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Sherman, recalling last year, describes the upcoming week:To us, it was just another week in the season, obviously. Youre with these guys 180 or 190 of the 365 days, so you get to spend a special week with them. You get to know their families a little better because its not just them there, but its their families, their sons and daughters.A lot of times you dont get to meet them during these weeks, were always at work from eight to six and everyone goes home. You get one day during training camp to meet peoples family, but thats about it. So you have a good time getting to know people more.Notice, no mention of football.But Sherman does insist the left elbow he hurt in the NFC title game will be no factor.If I had to slap my brother, Id be able to do it, he said jokingly.Not much light-hearted stuff coming from New England. Not much football talk, either.Belichick, who can equal Chuck Nolls four Super Bowl rings as a head coach, is grilled about the air pressure in a football, not about the pass pressure Seattle can bring on Brady.Brady, in turn, gets cross-examined about the weight of the footballs, not about the weight of trying to reach Joe Montana/Terry Bradshaw territory with a fourth Super Bowl triumph.OObviously Id much rather be up here talking about the Seahawks and preparing for the Super Bowl, which weve been trying to do for the last few days, he said.ddddddddddddAs for Lynch, while its certain the Patriots are scheming how to slow down Beast Mode, the league is trying to figure out what to do with him on media day and beyond. Lynch was fined $20,000 Thursday for an obscene gesture in the NFC championship win over Green Bay.In November, he was nailed for $50,000 for not adhering to the league media policy. Another $50,000 from 2013 that was withheld with the expectation he would co-operate in the future also was collected because, well, Lynch didnt speak up when required to.Some folks in the NFL offices must be wondering what else could happen to shift the focus from Patriots-Seahawks.What the football-watching world hopefully prefers is to get back to the machinations on the 100-yard gridiron. Such as the key showdown between All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski and Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, perhaps the only defender who can somewhat match Gronks power and speed.Such as how Seattle avoids the pitfalls that plagued it for much of the NFC title game, when it fell behind 16-0.And how high-priced Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis performs in his first Super Bowl after seven seasons of falling short (on the field if not at the bank).Theres also what some have dubbed Petes Revenge, recalling how Carroll was canned by the Patriots after the 1999 season and replaced by Belichick. Carroll went on to phenomenal success at Southern California even as his successor was turning New England into a power. Hes displayed no animosity toward the Patriots organization — anything otherwise would have fit in with the theme of the 2014 season and the past few weeks, of course.It was a real challenge, said Carroll, who went 28-23 in three seasons with the Patriots. Its a great place to be in sports: a great town, a great following, much like it is here (in Seattle). Just tremendous support and all, really heartfelt.That was the old days and all of the old facilities; it wasnt quite as nice as it now, I am sure. Still, the whole setup was really exciting to be around, they had such history. It didnt work out. We did some good stuff while we were there, but it didnt work out and time to move on.Yep, maybe its time to move on from all the tangential stuff and concentrate on what the Super Bowl is supposed to represent: football.___AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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